Friday, September 20, 2013

Being Blacky 2

Colourism as I learnt yesterday is the new term to define this widespread phenomenon. Yes!! Its so rampant and world-wide and it affects so many people in so many different countries, societies and strata of life, that it has now been elevated to the stature of being an "ISM" like Racism, Nazism, casteism and so on.

There are variants too- shadeism and pigmentocracy to name a few. 

In the US of A- the dreamland of  many Indians- its prevalent for ages. From the time of slavery, the blacks were an oppressed lot, black women were regarded ugly, dark, dirty, unhygienic, sexually uninhibited all because they were available to be exploited. The epitome of beauty was the Fair, Pink and white, Blonde haired european child- the Shirley Temple prototype. Where did the poor black girls stand a chance with her. The races mixed and there was a hierarchy built up: the darker you were the lower down on the rung you got, the fairer you were and the more privileged you were- Pigmentocracy!!

Would you believe it -they conducted the famous "Brown Paper Bag" test, the fairer the shade you were to the brown bag the better you were in stature- and mind it, this was among the blacks themselves!!! Its a proven fact that lighter skinned people get better jobs, better wages, more privileges and wonders of wonders shorter prison sentences- Shadeism!!

Consistent long term colonialism did the damage in many parts of the world including India. White was pure, pristine, virginal and beautiful and black or brown was all things opposite. The Indians resisted the white culture, stuck to their religion but they never questioned colourism being promoted. This resulted in social conditioning where fair was the criteria of beauty. 

But it will be unfair( I am now losing the context of this usage) to blame the Europeans completely. Didnt we depict in our own culture that Rama(good) was fair and Ravana (evil) dark. It has been prevalent since time immemorial then. Sita was fair, small statured, with long straight silky hair- our own symbol of beauty!!. Even Krishna- the God who had several gopis cavorting with him was depicted as having a complex from Radha his FAIR consort. Who are we kidding here??

Coming to modern times, the icons of Bollywood, fashion and television industry are all fair, with straight hair and they do take the pain of telling you how they got there- by applying fairness creams!!!! Simple!! Aint it??? And we the gullible ones want to be "Fair and Lovely"...how else would we be successful. Ehh?In the process the multi-million Rupee fairness and bleaching industry make a living and thrive on our complexes and insecurities. I say we are at fault not these companies and advertisements..we have given them the fodder to feed on. Its our insecurities and lack of confidence, our prejudice and bias that they are en-cashing.

I wear Red now....and green and orange and purple too...in fact Emerald and Ruby are my full time favourites...be it clothes, shoes or bags. Whatever did happen to make me do that, you would ask. Ill tell you now that I am baring it all.

Love happened!! A handsome FAIR boy fell for me. He was so madly in love with me that I had to elope with him...and believe me I was still gloating over the fact that he was the fairest of them all!!!! That was incentive enough. He made me feel beautiful and sexy and confident and coveted. I dressed in a red saree for my wedding and a darker red for my reception; he insisted and I was complimented so much that I regretted  not having worn it before. 

I was lucky- for once-that he cherished me. I was lucky because he didn't turn out to be an exploiter, though now I realise that anybody could have exploited me, with the state of mind I was in. I shudder at what my lack of confidence could have done to me. 

Then Facebook happened and out came my silent admirers from their closets and nooks. I was so surprised by the insistent likes and compliments on my photos that I thought they were all making fun of me. But Five years and several compliments later I am finally convinced that I am beautiful

This may seem like another rant but believe me its not...All I want is that people around me realise what damage it has caused me. I would like to mention here was it was not as if nobody at all supported me or appreciated me and my talents. All along my mom, brother, eldest maasi, her daughter, another cousin, some really really nice teachers, and some great friends were always there for me. I didn't have to put up a strong defiant front before them. I could be myself and they made me feel loved and desired.

Most importantly I want as many people as possible to realise what damage they do to someones psyche when they explicitly call them Darky, Blacky, Kaalia, Kaalo, kaalu, kallu, or implictly tell them to apply this or that concoction or avoid the sun. Please avoid telling people that certain colour doesn't suit them- its their skin, their dress and their choice. 

Stop  harassing little children regarding their skin colour, appreciate them for their uniqueness. Don't compare. Don't deprecate. It hurts- badly very badly. It damages their self-confidence. It sets them rolling on a destructive journey. It "colours" their ability to take decsions, to pursue happiness.

Parent must never slap these prejudices and complexes on their children. Don't unknowingly make their life hell. Let them be. Let them enjoy all the colours of nature. Learn to appreciate beauty in all its forms and shades and teach universal acceptance to the coming generation. Let them not face this ISM at all.